Eddison’s prose style
I had rather a hundred people should read my books again and again than that a million read them once and be done with them.
Eddison’s fantasy novels are written in an inimitable style, using an archaic mode of expression and a rich vocabulary. Eddison saw this style as being an essential characteristic of the novels. The archaic style is most evident in the speech of characters which distinguishes them as being from another time and place. The main narrative is written in a more modern idiom which presents little difficulty to the reader. In each mode the prose flows, encompassing fast-moving plots and descriptive passages of great lyrical beauty.
The novels are filled with quotations from his favourite authors, ranging from Homer and Sappho to the Jacobean dramatist, John Webster and the Victorian poet and playwright, Algernon Swinburne. Eddison confirmed in correspondence that his works had been ‘influenced at every turn consciously and unconsciously by every writer whose work I have loved’. The breadth and depth of his reading can be felt throughout the novels but does not interfere with the rhythm of the story.
Perhaps the final word should go to Douglas Winter, who wrote in his Foreword to the Dell paperback editions of The Worm Ouroboros, and Zimiamvia: A Trilogy, ‘These are books to be savored, best read in the long dark hours of night, when the wind is against the windows and the shadows begin to walk – books not meant for the moment, but for forever’.